Posts Tagged: #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

Incident by Amiri Baraka

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

An exemplary use of collage in this videopoem by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, incorporating the Eric Garner footage along with other shots of police brutality and newspaper-headline-style snippets of text. The description at Vimeo:

My name is Rachel Eliza Griffiths. I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry.

“Incident” by Amiri Baraka read by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Visual Text include references & lines from
Allen Ginsberg’s “America”
Carrie Mae Weems “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried”
Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

The inclusion of multiple voices in a videopoem is something that doesn’t happen very often, for some reason, but I think it’s very effective here. Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and photographer whose “literary and visual work has been widely published in journals, magazines, anthologies, and periodicals including Callaloo, The New York Times, Poets & Writers, The Writer’s Chronicle, Crab Orchard Review, Mosaic, RATTLE,” and many others. See her website for more.

As I was preparing this post, I noticed that the video has also just been featured at Cultural Front.

The poem and confluence of words, still images, and disturbing video footage come to us quickly within the span of 141 seconds. Multiple viewings are necessary to grasp all that Griffiths presents here. She really stretches the boundaries of poetry, video, and artistic protest. Her contribution is a really distinguishing moment in the production of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut and beyond.

It’s encouraging to see the prominent role of poets and poetry in what is increasingly looking like a new American civil rights movement. Since I wrote about #BlackPoetsSpeakOut at Moving Poems Magazine the other week, videos with that hashtag have continued to appear online and number in the hundreds now. And there was an excellent article by Matt Petronzio in Mashable, of all places: “Refusing silence: Black poets protest and mourn in verse.”

As Black Poets Speak Out grows, more and more poets are reading their original work. But most people so far have read the work of famous poets, such as Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, as well as renowned contemporary poets, including Evie Shockley and Cornelius Eady.

“I think most people are doing other people’s work initially, because that work is there and still, unfortunately, relevant. And that’s the thing about poetry — when it was used in the Black Arts Movement as protest poetry, it was because it was an immediate response. It was something to do quickly,” [Jonterri] Gadson says.

Perhaps that’s why so many people, even outside Black Poets Speak Out, are turning to poetry, after their own words fail them. In the wake of tragedy, it can help make sense of the senseless; iconic black poets’ words are painfully timeless.

While purely documentary videos of poetry readings can be wonderful, I’ll remain on the lookout for those that incorporate video remix and other elements of true videopoetry to share here. Any and all tips are appreciated. I’d also encourage poets who might be interested in following Griffiths’ example to check out our list of online resources for videopoem makers.

I Can’t Breathe: poems for Eric Garner by Daniel J. Watts and Bettina Judd

From WalkRunFly Productions, here’s a unique performance poem by Daniel J. Watts which took the form of a well-coordinated, flash-mob-like demonstration four months ago, in response to the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of police. In light of the recent failure of a grand jury to indict the officer who killed Garner, and the growing, nation-wide movement against racist police behavior, it is sadly more relevant than ever. Here’s the description from Vimeo:

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man died after being placed in a choke hold by police. His death sparked national outrage.

More than 100 Broadway stars, directors, choreographers, designers, and technicians gathered at the police precinct in Times Square to express their thoughts on the killing of Eric Garner.

WalkRunFly Productions (Warren Adams & Brandon Victor Dixon) partnered with poet Daniel J. Watts, MSNBC’s David Wilson from thegrio and more than 100 Broadway stars, directors, choreographers, designers and technicians in Times Square, to express their thoughts on the killing of Eric Garner.

WalkRunFly Productions

Produced By
Warren Adams & Brandon Victor Dixon

Poem written and performed by
Daniel J. Watts

Edited by
Darryl Harrison
Visual Architect

Videographers
Lowell Freedman, Antonio Thompson, Darryl Harrison, And Jesse Guma

The whole incident was captured on video by a bystander, and at least one poet — Bettina Judd — has remixed the footage into a videopoem. Judd is no stranger to innovative videopoetry, and it shows: she uses contrast and layering to good effect, including verses from the Bible (where breath is often equated to the soul and to the breath of God), preparing the viewer/listener for a sardonic, unsettling conclusion.